Oakeshott Establishes the Bien Pensant on Nietzsche

In a 1948 Cambridge Journal review of a book (by Lavrin) on Nietzsche, conservative Catholic English toff Michael Oakeshott announces the correct interpretation of Nietzsche.

Oakeshott identifies Nietzsche as an artist. This means that Nietzsche’s work is to diagnose European culture. Nietzsche’s diagnosis is that European culture is plagued with nihilism, irreligion, and weakness, which pathologies Nietzsche illustrates “in every field of human activity” (Oakeshott 1948). European culture is decadent and inclined to disintegration.

Nietzsche’s syphilis Oakeshott and Lavrin consider a mystical font of truth. Like a smoldering lightning strike from a god, syphilis bestowed not just suffering and mortality but as well divine Sight, Nietzsche’s prophetic diagnosis of Europe. Where both liberal and socialist analysis would locate private troubles within social relations (which for the socialist could be alterable, if the private troubles undermined distributed sovereignty), and in so doing diminish shame as a social weapon, conservative logic rather reassigns the Great Man’s problems to others’ shame: “The disintegration of me, a Great Man, is in Truth the disintegration of society.” Oakeshott and Lavrin affirm the equivalence as especially “sharp-eyed,” “sharp perception,” “vigilant,” “clear-eyed,” even “clairvoyant” “scrutiny.”

oakeshott

Instructively, Oakeshott spills a lot of ink insisting that up to the late 1940s idiots (“culture-philistines up from the suburbs”) misattribute Nietzsche’s importance to his reform platform, calling for the reinstitution of aristocracy. Focusing on Nietzsche’s reform platform, Oakshott warns, is akin to abridging or systematizing Nietzsche; it’s all destruction of Art. Not the reform platform, but the artist’s complaint (His J’accuse! corpus) is Nietzsche’s contribution, Oakeshott insists. It is not knowledge. It is a stimulus to sweet, sweet, manipulable affect. Nietzsche is a primer.

(Although, to be fair to him as an individual contributor to the conservative community, Oakeshott advocated Homo Motus issuing a total kingdom of aethestics: Everything that should exist ought to be understood as art, inducer of emotion, and everything produced should be art, inducer of emotion. Metaphysics, sociology, interests, strategies are not fit topics for polite society.)

Oakeshott is at pains to point out, a few times in a two-page review, that only a Great Master could correctly conduct a genealogy–be it Nietzsche or his interpreter. This foundational requirement of conservative theory tends to escape Sociologists, impressed by the bold conservative command to black box the metaphysical structure of Nietzsche’s work. These Sociologists adopt genealogy and encourage their students to adopt it. The authority of genealogy as a conservative epistemology relies strictly on an ontological precondition, the recognized social power of and behind the interpreter. Foucault had the power of the French state behind him. Little Debbie Hinterlands Masters Student has jack shit. She has the erstwhile backup of Latour and other 20th century German-inspired French philosophers cherry-picking cases to argue that collectivist scientific knowledge has no capacity to allow people to know their world beyond the habituated thought conferred by state (commercial) power. But that’s not much, as the point of that argumentation is to frighten and splinter scholars off from scientific communities of scholarship, reasserting the Cartesian compromise with the church (scientific knowledge of the inert material world v. divine, expert knowledge of the soul), driving them back to submit to the authoritative, decisionist expertise of French state-backed philosophers (at best). We hope these patriarchs mean us well?

In adopting genealogical method against social scientific craft, the student both repudiates democratic knowledge accumulation and proliferates claims without social power. It’s fine for pumping out cheap commodities in a market without demand; but recommending individualist genealogy for students ill-equips them for effective civic engagement, thereby fulfilling its domineering conservative logic. To paraphrase Anatole France, the idealist philosophy, in its majestic equality, permits the patronized as well as the commodified to pronounce bridges, streets, and bread.

In another essay, Oakeshott locates Germany’s philosophical rebuttal to democratic science in the works of (Dane) Kierkegaard and Nietzsche.

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Benner: Actually-existing Nationalisms

In her chapter “Explaining Nationalism” (Really Existing Nationalisms, 2018, Verso), Erica Benner conveys Marx’s assessment of the British ruling class M.O.:

“In Marx’s view…a (British) statesman of the bourgeoisie (succeeded) precisely in his ability to avoid British engagement in European conflicts (over monarchy v. democracy) while preserving Britain’s international image as the level-headed guardian of constitutional principles…”

Marx: “‘If he betrayed foreign peoples for fear of encouraging revolution,’ the British ‘did it with great politeness.’ ‘If the oppressors were always sure of (British) active support, the oppressed never wanted a great ostentation of (British) rhetorical generosity.’….(The British) ‘knows how to conciliate a democratic phraseology with oligarchic views…'”

My point: Why aren’t we all as politically-“discerning” as the British ruling class, if in a different direction? Is capital (wealth) required to maintain a political compass within a collective action coalition while that coalition ideologically and materially divides and conquers competitors, rivals, colonies, and enemies? Political compass, backed by shitloads of capital, permit ruling classes so many more strategic degrees of freedom than their would-be challengers have.

 

“The bourgeoisie’s interests in Britain, as in France and Germany, were thus advanced through the highly-selective application of principles that were supposed to underpin the legitimacy of its representatives. By suggesting that class interests explained why and when those principles were or were not applied, Marx challenged two more conventional ways of explaining foreign policy choices: those based on the idea that statesmen are motivated by free-floating principles or ideals, and power-political accounts which postulated a class-neutral ‘national interest’ as the basic guide to policy-making. Marx’s observations suggest a general, cross-national hypothesis: that the bourgeoisie’s commitment to the political doctrines which express their substantial interests is weakened, not reinforced, in proportion to the clarity of those interests and the confidence that they can be secured” (Benner 2018: 121).

We can reasonably suggest that a Marxist would revise the premise that liberal or constitutional political doctrines distinctly express the capitalist class’ substantial interests. That premise reflects the regional, historical view from unconsolidated 19th c. Germany, or, again, it reduces the British premier-capitalists’ venerable, instrumentalist, flexible and strong divide-and-conquer strategic tradition to one of its tactical components–  marketing co-optative, abstract liberal principles. Marx elsewhere (Capital V 1, Part VIII, Chapter 26; Rheinische Zeitung and New York Tribune reporting and analysis) recognized that slavery, colonialism, genocide, and extractivism also express substantial capitalist interests quite at odds with a constitutionalist posture.

Policy Proposal: Develop Alternative Paths from University for Immigrants Who Aren’t Scholars

Political Economic Context for the Policy of Immigration through Universities in the Anglosphere under Financial and Military Rule

Population growth is a requirement in societies dedicated to aggregate (undistributed) economic growth. Much as Anglo-American societies place far less emphasis on fostering developmental conditions than attracting, hosting, and taking a cut of wealth from around the globe, Anglo-American Settler societies continuously reproduce vulnerable, disrupted labor via import, immigration, not biological reproduction, which risks a working class with contributory claims on the wealth global elites are trying to amass and store. Functionally self-perpetuating, the Anglo-American empire requires continuous mass-disruption and dislocation of populations in strategic regions; thus, the US military functionally produces via war that traumatized migration central to the liberal Anglo social model’s growth objective. Culturally, liberal Anglo societies discount the reproduction of human capital in favor of reproducing working classes with weaker contributory claims; they discount human capital’s role in technological innovation, and they discount technological innovation as an engine of growth, in favor of raw, mass wealth accumulation and the capacity to dismantle rivalry and upstarts (See Gordon 2016).

With the restoration of financial leadership in the Anglosphere and the militarization of American society, financial and militarized policing interests have increasingly come to determine who will deal with the process of immigration to minimize the costs of migration and immigration to financial accumulation and the US’s other main work– surveillance, Military “Keynesianism,” and warfare. It is financial metropoles like the City of London and New York City that produce the accumulation-focused policy templates replicated–often irrationally–throughout its tributaries, from repurposing housing and urban infrastructure into a real estate repository for global elites’ surfeit wealth, to repurposing Trente Glorieuses social citizenship institutions like the build-up of university infrastructure from mass human development to commercial R&D and direct business subsidy, as well as immigration processing.

Universities as migration institutions is a policy and institutional incentive system that looks like it might make sense from a distance, but has a lot of fundamental structural flaws that the “front-line service workers” (as Anglo policymakers construct professors) are left to jury-rig in the 100-hour workdays (in the alternate reality of policy-makers’ minds) of teachers and professors/researchers and other atavistic remnants of democratic institutions. In Commonwealth regions that adopt the finance-oriented City of London’s policy models, including processing immigration through universities, professors can manage neither their own departments (This is optimal from the professional management interest.)–nor their own workloads (This incapacity to be accountable is suboptimal even from a professional managerial perspective). This dysfunction operates to the extent that the material professors are provided to evaluate students for admissions has been found to be mostly fraudulently produced, and inaccurately represents the students’ actual capacity or propensity for education and scholarly work. In such regimes, there is little fit between immigrants and universities. Nonsensically, the responsibility for this lack of fit is downloaded onto individual professors; perhaps it will eventually drift to departments or university management, who will doubtless attempt to implement more surveillance software on employees.

Should professors be saddled with the responsibility for making universities fit immigration, since universities are generally about finishing up adult newcomers, polishing them up for market and social contribution, and this is a many-faceted task? From the professor’s perspective, undergrad education is something of a gong show; but universities have always played an adult-transition “governess” role, among the many functions that have been delegated to universities. This great social contribution, like any such indispensable, feminized, developmental social reproduction work, is readily discounted in liberal Anglo culture–particularly as it reproduces non-elites and their work, versus directly reproducing elites and wealth. So by undertaking this important, complex work, professors, educators and researchers consequently can be portrayed as doing nothing in Anglo liberal cultures. But it is in recent years that Anglo-American politicians and university managers have coalesced to fill professors’ imaginary work “gap” by expanding the en loco parentis tradition into En Loco Department of Immigration.

In addition to their other responsibilities and contributions, now professors are saddled with processing population growth for aggregate economic growth. Professors are left holding the immigration bag for no logical reason, but simply because they are not that organized or powerful a constituency. Already internally riven by professional schools divorced from scholarly purpose and married to commerce, scholars are incapable of organizing and articulating how scholarship contributes to society. In lieu of clarifying scholarship’s contributions, disciplines simply competitively market their wares while giant university administrations fund-raise and manage the help.

The US Working-class Risk Model in Credential Consumption and Immigration-via-University

The distinctive institutional resource that allows universities to manage this prescribed misdirection of migrants and migration workload transfer in the US is that, in contrast to the British system, graduate students in the US are not guaranteed the services of professors. Advising, mentoring, working on graduate students’ committees is completely up to professors’ discretion in US universities. In the US system a strong percentage of graduate students unceremoniously fade away from the academic departments where they were accepted for study–They have to individually develop a new strategy and leave academia–because they cannot secure the faculty members to sit on their committee or get faculty to continue serving on their committees. Grad students in the US have the typical American individualized high-risk contract for workers, rather than the more favorable contract that the British tradition provides students as consumers.

On the negative side, this US model allows for plenty of personalized and institutional abuse of graduate students. On the more functional side, in the US the burden is not on professors, but on graduate students to demonstrate through their own work, to their professors, that they can do the more independent work that I think employers and communities should expect of someone with a graduate degree. This virtue is currently not true of graduate students in the British Commonwealth.

But I think that in the Commonwealth, you could retain the better treatment of graduate students while making a graduate degree a signal of the holder’s capacity rather than a reflection of her or his professors’ capacity. This reform would provide stronger information, a benefit, to employers.

Anglo Immigration through Universities, A Reform Proposal: Not Just the Boot But Settler Chutes for Immigrants

US-style professor discretion allows the on-the-ground “migration agents”–professors– to evaluate students as they do work rather than be forced into overwork connecting university education and research with the incongruous expectations and needs of a migrant pool, people already under high adjustment demands and often unwilling and unable to take on graduate-degree work expectations. Those of us who think that universities contribute massively to society without taking on the huge sideline of immigrant-processing work may suggest alternative departmental, institutional, regional or Anglo policy we could find from within the British traditions that would permit us to best preserve core university work within the Commonwealth. An alternative to that American student-risk model that the Anglo tradition has foregone is policy that provides alternative “chutes” stemming off from an academic immigrant entry point.

This chute approach has strong precedent in English policy. In Anglo countries with indigenous populations, policy has institutionalized “ladders” for indigenous people to enter the social work, childcare, and teaching job markets from Community Schools that serve as poorly-funded neighborhood welfare hubs. Anglo approaches to working class motherhood institutionalize chutes from the delivery room to surveilled, socially-subsidized, low-wage, unskilled labour for businesses, a policy called Workfare. Such Poore Lawes policy, while extremely coercive, exploitative, and multi-generationally handicapping, is embedded in the Anglo tradition, and squats squarely in the liberal Anglo ideological wheelhouse. Institutionalized chutes are quite naturalized and legitimate in Anglo management and political cultures and not regarded as contributing to policymakers’ shame at all. Chutes policy should not be a hard sell in an Anglo region.

While chutes can be mainstay Anglo fare, they need not be Anglo-vampiric. The chutes from university for those immigrants without current scholarly capacity could serve as an alternative to the catastrophic deportation default, and avoid the political and litigation frenzy that the British government has incurred in going to extremes to avoid professors evaluating immigrant students’ work as academic work. And institutionalizing chutes does not have to be as carceral and debilitating as class-warfare Poore Lawes policy is. British Commonwealth jurisdictions do not have to reinstitute indentured servitude for immigrants. After all, the Anglo-American growth model depends on mass immigration, and in competition, Anglo regions need to continue “pulling” in a working-age population. Tweaking the concept, the chutes could be called “bridges.”

More substantively, building such connections for failing student-immigrants between universities as the immigration entry point and a number of secondary immigration paths–remedial education, vo-tech education, labour markets, and small-business supports–and investing in the on-the-ground university departments the discretion to direct immigrant-students to these bridges–to transfer immigrants to other settlement options rather than giving them the boot, rather than (unsuccesfully) treating failed students as if they were criminals because they try to game universities, could help correct migrant incentives and settler enculturation, including to fraud and inefficient distrust. Institutionalizing chutes can reinforce university standards, incentives, work, priorities, and credentials, rather than undermine them as current, underconceptualized, underdeveloped immigration-through-universities policy does. Moreover, by ending Commonwealth professors’ institutionally-enforced obligation to credential accepted students by hook or crook, restoring to professors the capacity to evaluate and credential students upon the student’s performance as a semi-independent worker, employers in the Commonwealth could count on advanced academic degrees to signal work skills and capacity.

Assessing Barriers to Productive Reform: The Reproduction of Financial Fraud & Rentier Grab-n-Go Cultures in Late Monopoly Capitalism

It looks that at this point in history, important underlying socio-economic priorities are mitigating against reform that preserves education and research integrity. I’m sure you saw that the British government conducted a review a few years ago, after the BBC blew the whistle in 2014, and found that a majority–tens of thousands– of migrants within their university system had cheated on their university English-language entrance exams. This fraud lies behind the massive redirection, across the Anglosphere, of professors’ workload into dealing by hook or crook with illiterate immigrants, innumerate immigrants, and immigrant-“students” who have little to nothing to do with scholarship, but quite unsurprisingly, just want to immigrate and not be bothered by extraneous stuff like university. Because they’re immigrants. And to be clear, it’s neither that immigrants corner the market on illiteracy, innumeracy, and socio-intellectual apathy. Nor is it that there are no scholar immigrants. It is that business-driven politicians and management working together to demote scholarship as the university priority helps legitimize general colonization of the university by interests that oppose scholarship, philosophy and science. When scholarship is marginalized at the university, we have renounced both democracy–which, yes, Anglo societies have renounced–and economic growth–which we have not yet admitted.

After attempting unsuccessfully to hit the emergency expulsion button, UK policymakers are unwilling to do anything about fraud and university colonization. No one has admitted that, in institutionalizing and normalizing cheating and falsification of qualifications, converting universities into a main migration institution is not only overloading and degrading the scholarly, citizenship, and even commercial development work that is simultaneously presumed to be done at universities, not only debasing professors’ capacity to administer and evaluate the progress of students to some level of adult, citizenship, and work competency, but also actively incentivizing fraud and gaming behaviour in the growing population.

It must be easy and quick for finance and defense industry interests to construct universities as needing to contribute ever more to financial accumulation. Far too easy. And yet, regional policymakers and business organizations need regional scholars to remind them when regional development interests diverge from the much-flogged interests at the financial metropoles that design and sell policy in support of metropole wealth accumulation and storage.

Even in this specific case of universities converted into immigration institutions, it’s obvious that there is a lot of work to do in coordinating Anglo-American cities and provinces– their Chambers of Commerce, developers, and policy makers– to incorporate a new generation of migrants in a way that allows newcomers–permanent and temporary–to align their own goals and welfare with regional development, to develop their best selves, work, and communities, to get the most out of the settler region that they can while re-creating a cohesive, vibrant, and capacious society.

 

Controlling Asia by installing and enforcing Middle East tyranny

From Tom Stevenson’s May 2019 LRB review of David Wearing’s Angloarabia (2018):

The Middle Eastern Tyrannies Serve to Allow Anglo-America to Control Europe and Asia

Starting in the late 18th century, Britain installed satraps in the Middle East. Installing and working primarily with the Saud family as its proxy, Britain developed these satraps into monarchical family dictatorships serving as a colonial, geographical flying buttress to the British Empire. What the Middle East primarily offers to empire is great supplies of particularly cheap and high-quality oil, which continental Europe and Asia are dependent upon. The Anglo-Americans that installed and enforce the ruling Middle East tyrannies are strategically independent of Middle Eastern oil. By installing and enforcing a proxy tyranny in Middle Eastern countries, the Anglo-America wing of the Atlantic ruling class quietly holds a knife over the  throats of continental Europe and Asia. Relations between Middle East tyrants and the US and UK are secondarily girded with the re-circulation of oil wealth through arms sales, finance, and urban real estate. Moreover, the Middle East ruling class is reproduced through the British military college Sandhurst.

The Costs of Middle Eastern Colonialism

The most terrible, primary cost of of the US and UK maintaining the Middle Eastern  tyrannies is to the 400 million nonelites in the Middle East, from Palestinians to the local population and imported Egyptian and South Asian workers all forbidden democracy, enslaved, surveilled, imprisoned, tortured, and finally, continuously disrupted, traumatized, and dislocated, as the massive US military and the Saudi tyrannies that purchase US, UK, and French arms bombard these populations to maintain absolute control of that region and the leverage it confers over Asia and continental Europe. The Middle Eastern dictatorships draw in fresh supplies of hapless labor from overpopulated Asia and North Africa, which workers are maltreated and soon bombed around the Middle East and North Africa, and onto Europe and the Anglo-American settler states. 11.4 million refugees circulated within the Middle East in 2017, as the global (internally-displaced and cross-regional) refugee population soared in recent years above WWII records to over 65 million disrupted, traumatized, and displaced people (UNHCR 2019).

It is important to understand that these migrant laborers are the wretched unprotected of the Earth. As a recent study by has shown, countries that rely on migrant remittances are more tyrannical rather than less (TBD).

A second cost with far-reaching antidemocratic implications is the reverse control, beyond support, that the Saudi dictators exert over their colonial patrons, as the huge profits of oil secured by the absolute control provided courtesy of the American military sloshes around within the colonial relationship. The Middle Eastern tyrants’ piling wealth is used to prop Anglo-America financially, with anti-democratic results: 1) Chicago darling Monica Prasad tells a sweet, mendacious story of financial innocence, starring Nixon defying the French, taking the dollar off gold, and finding to his “surprise” that the financiers of the world rushed in with cash to support the US as the global financial center. The truth is that financiers had been organizing to deregulate finance from the moment FDR regulated it (Fridell & Hudson 2010), and they accomplished deregulation quickly in Britain (Blyth 2002), which served as global finance’s power base. Defying France wasn’t completely a Nixonian feat of capitalist solidarity and faith, the dollar backed by aught but heroic, immaterial financial speculation. While Nixon was being cut out of power in 1974, US treasury secretary William Simon arranged with the Sauds for the Middle Eastern tyrannies to back the US dollar with their all-too-materially-based oil revenues (Spiro, David. 1999).

Saudi support accomplished a lot, a lot on behalf of finance and military. It enabled the US to continue military expansion, and provided the additional independence to Wall Street-City of London finance it needed to maintain inflation as capital strike and liquidate and privatize the working-class accountable state in the US and UK. Backing the US dollar with Middle East oil permitted the reversal of democratic gains in the US and UK, enabling neoliberalization as the conservatization of liberalism as well as the public-private Nightwatchman State militarization of the US and UK. Swiftly deprived of state institutions supporting working class organization and democratic citizenship, the US and UK working classes were converted from an indirect brake on finance and war into a militarized police force topped by a management class, all with no capacity for independent organization. 2) The Middle Eastern tyrants ostentatiously finance the City of London as a global elite real estate holding, an ever-more gilded hole in which to hoard rents far away from the excluded 99% of humanity. This has become a decadent urban model throughout the world, proliferating not just inequality and inegalitarianism, but housing and transportation poverty as well. 3) When the unregulated Anglo banks were self-aggrandizing, self-deluding, and profligate in the 21st century, it was the Middle Eastern tyrants that bailed them out and allowed them (including Barclays) to avoid economists’ beloved moral hazard reckoning. The Middle Eastern tyrants make Too Big to Fail work. The Middle Eastern tyrants maintain the lack of regulation over Anglo-American finance. The significant secondary costs of Middle East colonialism accrue to core capitalism’s vast smallholding class and to democracy.

Is the Middle Eastern Tyranny Indispensable?

The one flaw of Stevenson’s account is the notion that the primary, humanitarian cost (with its immigration impacts) could be reversed if only the US encouraged Britain’s satraps to behave more kindly. Stevenson lays the blame for this great, rolling imperial disaster squarely on the shoulders of the US, on account of the US’s general barbarism and ignorance. Would that the British could manage everything absolutely, surely they would restore a kinder, gentler colonialism. Though the Anglo ruling class didn’t maintain a kinder, gentler colonialism from the late 18th century up to 1943, when the US joined Britain in bankrolling the Saud’s war on the Gulf, nor up to 1971 when Britain was no longer able to cover the costs of the Gulf military protection racket and transferred the military economy over to the US. Invoking the beloved liberal political-science phantasm of socially-rational state bureaucrats (This may be the sensitive Anglo elite v. US barbarian contrast that liberals and Anglos are imagining as the norm.), perhaps Stevenson has in mind that the UK could finally volunteer to be the benevolent dictator today that it formerly failed to be, and the US fails to be, and that it’s the US that forces the UK to continue to maintain the enabling military support the Gulf States rely on to crush democracy at home and abroad. It seems the British terror of US barbarism is real and not just performative, and yet surveying history as well as contemporary imperial relations (For example, to forestall an Iran-style revolution, “Britain equips and trains the Saudi police force, has military advisors permanently attached to the internal Saudi security forces, and operates a strategic communicaions programme for the Saudi National Guard.”), it is difficult to see how the British offer a positive alternative protection racket, any more than capitalist Russia offers “multipolarity” (distinct from patronage for a handful of political scientists).

Maybe the problem is that the Anglo-American ruling class is too tight. Maybe the recursive jackboot could be eased by splitting the US and UK’s territory in the Middle East, creating a sort of Anglo-American multipolarity. Maybe that’s what a powerful state would do, if it actually valued and pursued humanitarian goals. Both the Obama and Trump administrations suggested publicly that the US has the strategic latitude to cut out the middle man. Presumably if the UK and the Middle Eastern tyrannies attempt to exert too much control over the unholy imperial alliance, the US could roll up its military and, following Nixon, treat directly with the East Asian states, what Stevenson refers to in alarm as “the Asian plot.” Curiously on the affronted Saudis behalf, Stevenson warns US strategists that with climate change, Middle Eastern tyranny affords more precious control over East Asia than ever.

So many questions open up. Does the US need the UK and its colonial satraps as much as they need the US? With this perhaps small or merely-symbolic divergence in UK and US interests in mind, it would be interesting to assess the indispensability of the Middle East tyrannies, within them distinguishing alignments with the US and UK, versus the relative strength of the US’s v. UK’s coercive ties and alliances with China. Certainly, within the British Commonwealth, Canada and Australia have been integrating with China. Why are UK partisans so keen to keep space between the US and China? How do the US and UK interests align with or diverge from China’s interests?

How do US and UK interests diverge from each other, not just in arms sales (The Middle East tyrants are the world’s largest buyer of military equipment, and the US, UK, and France compete with each other to bribe them.), but particularly in finance, as its independence is propped and wagged by the Middle East tyrants? Yes, Saudi oil wealth maintains the US’s war economy, and absolute libertine finance in both Wall Street and the City of London. It helpfully dismantles democracy in both the US and UK. Yet are the Saudi dictators necessary to controlling East Asia, putatively their primary role? The British assure us they are. But can the US exert sufficient control over East Asia in its alliance with the Israeli and Egyptian tyrannies, and by colonial dominance over Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and perhaps Yemen and Iran? (Note: Check out Sunni v. Shi’a alignments.)

A League of Innocent Tyrants

I do not think that the British Empire fell quite as gracefully, in the early 20th century, as is commonly told. The story goes that the expense of WWII was the end of the British Empire, and the transfer of Atlantic ruling class leadership to the US as well as the granting of Indian independence. And it’s true that the locus of power shifted within the Atlantic ruling class family coalition, but did not completely retract from the UK. The Atlantic ruling class is a robust, inbred alliance, and it commands enough of world wealth to grease its internal conflicts. However, together with 20th century financial history, UK-US relations in the Middle East reveal fissures within that robust league of imperialists.

See my brief account UK v. US states and finance from the 1950s – the early 1970s, in “6 Pivotal Class Collective Actions in the US in the Second Half of the 20th Century.” To preserve its power, Britain deregulated finance in the 1950s. This deregulation provided US and global finance extra degrees of tactical freedom and leverage over the US state, including the power to enforce inflation as a form of capital strike. Indicative of solidarity within the UK ruling class and a lack of solidarity between the UK’s rulers and a then-fractured US ruling class, US political leaders did not grasp that the US state had been subordinated to international finance until Nixon was brought down in 1974, a couple years after he inadvertently demonstrated, with state-coordinated price control boards, that (finance-coordinated) capital was manipulating inflation to end US state accountability to the working class (See Blyth 2002: 135-6).

Contrary to much-circulated conservative theorization, inflation was not simply caused by the working class, or even the US’s imperial wars against SE Asians and the OPEC oil embargo (from which the UK was secretly exempted, see Stevenson p. 11). The results of the price-control boards clearly showed that capital was intensifying domestic US inflation, which indicates that capital had heightened coordination and strategic capacity, a capacity typically provided by deregulated finance. With Nixon serving as a publicly-flayed goat signifying the inexorable fate of that perennial bugaboo of Atlantic ruling class meritocracy–upstart American provincial political miscalculation, the US political class was deeply embarrassed, cowed, and fully chastened for decades, bound to faithfully serve finance and military in exchange for top-manager income and financially-advantageous marriages for their daughters…until the rise of socialists over the last couple of years.

Not only running the 1973 OPEC oil embargo and adding to US inflation panic, the Saudis were right there throughout the 1970s, supporting US imperialism, US and UK de-democratization, and a financial hegemony that turned the City of London and New York City into powerbrokers and international elite real estate enclaves populated inter alia by Middle Eastern tyrants and Russian oligarchs. The Saudis switched from the British currency, pounds sterling, to the US dollar in 1971, when Nixon took the US dollar off the gold standard to defy anti-imperial runs on US gold reserves. Three years later, in 1974, while Nixon was being removed (arguably more for his presumption of state capacity than for his connivance with petty political party crimes revealed by plucky newsmen), in an agreement with the US Treasury Secretary William Simon, the Saudis infused US finance with oil revenues to again back up with solid material wealth the otherwise speculation-backed US dollar (Spiro 1999).

 

Bibliography

 

Blyth, Mark. 2002. Great Transformations: Economic Ideas and Institutional Change in the Twentieth Century. Cambridge.

Fridell, Mara and Mark Hudson. 2010. “Financialization, Enabling Policy, and Elite Policy Networks.”

Schenk, Catherine R. 1998. “The Origins of the Eurodollar Market in London: 1955-1963.” Explorations in Economic History 35: 221-238.

Spiro, David. 1999. The Hidden Hand of American Hegemony.

Stevenson, Tom. 2019. “What are we there for?” LRB 11, 9 May.

Wallich, Henry C. 1971. “One chance in a generation: Guideposts for the Commission on
Financial Structure and Regulation.” Journal of Money, Credit and Banking 3(1): 21-30.

Wearing, David. 2018. Angloarabia: Why Gulf Wealth Matters to Britain. Polity.

 

 

 

 

Capitalist Primacy

“Britain can be conceived of as the first fossil-fuel-led market civilization with a rising money supply (Central-bank-issued money representing global expectations of and co-optation into its network of private financiers’ future power accumulation,) backed by the surplus energy capacity provided by its (social reproduction-disruptive, inegalitarian social relations, consequent forest depletion and) reliance on coal.

Expanding the money supply–as in France, Spain and Portugal–without adding manufacturing capacity largely resulted in rising prices for a limited amount of goods” (Di Muzio, T. & M. Dow. 2017).

Britain’s 1694 Central Bank moment was replicated in the 1971 Nixon move removing gold backing from the US dollar. Both constituted empire brinkmanship that successfully secured the subordinate cooperation of global wealth owners who in turn controlled non-owners.

Nitzan & Bichler (theorists behind Di Muzio & Dow) are motivated by their aversion to the labour theory of value, and their analytical preference for elite perspective. So I think their critique of Marxists is as usual worthless, because a central point of Marxism is to understand capitalism from the perspective of its mass of expropriated, exploited/discounted, abjected, but still somehow necessary peoples.

With elite-centric theory, the mystery remains unaddressed: The masses are still economically necessary and vital. Elite theorists don’t understand why. Why do elite theorists believe in plutonomy while also believing in the necessity of population growth?

But I think Di Muzio & Dow can be shorn of their anti-labour theory of value tic, to better effect.

They remain academic anarchists, though, and that means that another main objective for them is demonstrating that the state = capitalism, and recommending that all political strategy fall out from there. To do that, they methodically eschew comparative method and most of political sociology findings, and instead reify a British case study. Britain, as Meiksins Wood showed, is capitalism’s premier state, and in an expanding, coercive *accumulation* system (as Di Muzio & Dow show it to be), the premier position is an exceptional position. What Di Muzio & Dow have shown is that Britain’s state = capitalism. That implies a whole ‘nother ball of strategy.

It would be intellectually and strategically irresponsible to ignore all the Marxist-inspired comparative work on state variability and development/stunting in relationship to Anglo-centric global capitalism, to produce a one-size-fits-all story that certainly misrepresents state-society relations in other parts of the world, and may well distort even empirical, actual, and real state-society relationships in Anglo resource-extraction management zones like Canada.

See also: Desan’s “Making Money” is a fantastic book. History of British currency from Anglo Saxon times until ~1700.

Extractivism & Universities

The late 20th century was full of analyses of the growing post-secondary education market. These analyses came to the simple conclusion that the role of the university in society was growing and so with it, opportunities for good careers in scholarship. Democrats imagined a world of increasingly-civilized middle class people.

But scholars are not very organized. Meanwhile, financialized capitalism does organize managers and surveillance software commerce. Organization, it turned out, was the relevant variable.

Fast forward 30 years and now post-secondary education budgets, derived from both states and individual families, serve many economic purposes, from hosting the managerial labour market to the marketing labour market to the accountanting labour market, to construction industry and the surveillance software industry, and on to immigration screening and prep.

To accomplish this reorganization, most of the unorganized people undergoing the extensive and intensive education regime to become doctors of philosophy and scholars were converted into cheap, just-in-time, deskilled front-line service workers.

As conservatives identified, universities were in the business of rent extraction. The problem is where the rents come from. With neoliberalization, rents would be extracted from students’ families and scholars, rather than the tax-paying public, identified as the Trente Glorieuses source of rents in conservative economists’ shaky political revision of the rents concept.

This conversion to mining scholars makes lots of sense in a financialized era: As food pulp becomes an underlying commodity market securitizing financial rents on ag land, post-secondary education was converted into a commodity market undergirding managerial, marketing, financial, software systems, and construction rents.

In addition to securitizing financial and other rents, universities are also managed to provide auxillary services in support of capitalist social reproduction. From their traditional low-key side role supervising young elite men working through the often-rough early transition to adulthood, professors have been saddled with more and more extreme, unpaid, consuming social reproduction job responsibilities. Extreme odd jobs foisted upon professors in the neoliberal era include: 1) serving as an unpaid part of immigration gatekeeping, by helping attract, weed and secure skilled labor; 2) serving as an unpaid part of the university front line “accommodating,” AKA insufficiently providing caretaking services to young people with mental illnesses and sometimes suicidal tendencies. This additional responsibility requires reconceptualizing not only the professor-student relation as a form of crisis comms management, but also the classroom–not as a collective learning environment, but as an optional venue for amateur psychological and social group experiments;  and 3) grant writing for public scholarly resources in order to both fund university rentiers and deploy young female students in symbolic support of the blasted, tattered social reproduction of dis-organized, racialized and poverty populations.

All this semi-official, multi-layered, inefficient and inappropriate redeployment of scholarly workers within the neoliberalized university is of course a symptom of core capitalism’s incapacity to simultaneously foster economic growth and the life conditions of economic growth. The borders have been militarized. The public mental health institutions dismantled. The students are supposed to take on debt to do post-secondary education work full time while doing remunerated junk jobs full time while lurching into young adulthood. The welfare state has been hacked back down to Nightwatchman Poor Laws. O, the abstract/elite liberty. Professors are serving as free immigration guard labor, amateur psychologists and social workers, and amateur social-work managers, and they’re doing that on top of their academic responsibilities simply because they have been identified as a remnant capable population of workers. Tenured professors are still capable because they’re getting paid just enough to live with only the crisis of overwork, while the rest of working families are drowning in crisis.

This proletarianization of a disorganized people who deferred income, and took on debt, in order to attain semi-sovereign and self-developmental work, is the function of management and surveillance software firms, which tend to be integrated. The proletarianized scholars tend to come from poorly-networked social backgrounds, such as working-class families, or they are female and subject to reduced credit and cooperation within the decent-compensation, semi-sovereign labour market.

Immigration and university privatization culturally cement this top-down-led reorganization. The internet abounds with triumphant stories, in extremely non-proficient English, of international students who were “friends” with the Anglo or American university chancellor or president (A friendship only possible above a very high wealth bar.), students who declined to do the work for a class, got a grade that inconvenienced them, and summoned their class network to kick the professor’s “ASS out into the gutter.” Global consumers clearly perceive this to be a global upper-class mafia age.

Scholars who study academia have reminded me to never forget that administrators see scholars as strictly “peasants.” That labour-disciplining, aristocratic entitlement culture, the expectations of servitude and expropriation, trickles down to the credential consumers, aligning them with the university’s internal and external array of gape-mawed rentiers in management, marketing, construction, finance, R&D, intellectual property rights, and surveillance software (including course/immigration skills-evaluation and testbank software, accounting software, classroom-allocation software, performance metrics and evaluation software, and consumer satisfaction metrics).

The culture is further amplified amongst those competitive academics with a system-gaming orientation.

 

Dysfunction-function junction

“Hamilton-Paterson sees the destructive impact of the ‘money men’ on industries more clearly. The catastrophic and unnecessary fate of ICI (which broke the hearts of some of my own chemical-engineering relatives) came about as men and women with long shop-floor experience and technical qualifications were pushed out of management by newcomers who claimed to be financial wizards. They weren’t. They played the great corporation for short-term stock-market gains, and they lost.

Hamilton-Paterson adds the example of Network Rail’s bungled electrification of Great Western (its cost rose in two years from £874 million to £2.8 billion). ‘That’s privatisation for you: layers upon layers of managers and accountants who know nothing about railways. The old British Rail alternative was layers upon layers of experienced railwaymen who knew nothing about accountancy but who did know exactly what electrifying a line entailed and simply got on and did it.’ Later in his book, he attacks the notion (‘holy writ’ today) that a college degree in management enrols one in a portable profession in which it hardly matters what a company does.”

Neal Ascherson, “As the toffs began to retreat” LRB 40(22).

If your goal is to play the institution housing an accretion of wealth–the corporation, or the privatized public good/service–for stock-market gains, then it very much doesn’t ever matter if you accomplish any substantive social or environmental goals.

“People talk easily about political ‘consensus’ in the postwar years. Edgerton disagrees. There was no lasting consensus between the parties on the welfare state, he says, and the idea of a ‘Butskellism’ common to Labour and Tory is a myth. Only for the ‘warfare state’ was there a consensus, to keep its secrets and to pay its vast bills. Britain’s hugely profitable arms trade is an enduring by-product of that state, and here Hamilton-Paterson contributes an unsettling thought. ‘It is the arms industry perhaps more than any other that best preserves the inventive standards and traditions of British engineering, research and technical expertise.’”–Ascherson